Global justice and genomics: Toward global agro-genomics agency
© ESRC Genomics Network 2010
Published: 15 August 2010
Searching for the specific contribution of the life sciences to global justice in agriculture and food, one is faced with six global problems that haunt the world today. These are: population growth (9.2 billion by 2050); the gap between poor and rich peoples; hunger and obesity; increasing environmental pressures; climate change; and instable power relations and systems. Most of them seem to have a strong connection with the dominant system in agriculture which is high input and capital- and resource-intensive with high energetic output (food), at the cost of other factors important for sustainable development, like food quality, fresh water and liveable temperatures. However, beside this dominant system there is a plurality of other, often local, agricultural systems that don't have these disadvantages or have them in a lesser degree, and they are in particular located in the South. The current prominent perspectives on global justice, like the consequence-oriented one of Peter Singer and the rights- and institutions-oriented one of Thomas Pogge, neglect the importance of plural and local agricultural and food practices for sustainable and fair global development. Partly complementary to these perspectives, Amartya Sen has developed a capabilities approach that emphasises human capacities and the role of democracy. In complementing his approach we develop an agency- and practice-oriented perspective that stresses the importance of networking the agricultural practices that strive to enhance the quantity and quality of food systems. The tasks of the life sciences for agriculture and food would then be to develop technologies that take into account the plural practices of the poor in the production, processing and consumption of food. This whole chain oriented approach requires from life scientists more than just doing research in laboratories; their task is also to connect their laboratory work with farmers' practices and experiments.